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Redshirt junior first baseman Ben Rodriguez had a massive opening weekend for the Pepperdine baseball team, going 4-for-9 with two home runs in the first three games vs. St. Joseph's. He talks about his confidence at the plate, his belief in the team this year and about the trip the team will make to Texas during spring break. The Texas trip will consist of a three-game series against Texas A&M, a Tuesday game against Sam Houston State and a three-game series against Rice University.
Ben  Rodriguez

Q: You guys had a big sweep of St. Joseph's this past weekend to open up the season. How big is it to start the season off that way?

A: This is the first time that we have won on opening day in the four years that I have been here, so it is a big deal to get our team rolling with some wins, especially going into the stretch of baseball that we are about to go into. It is good to have that kind of confidence going into that big trip.

Q: You had a big weekend yourself. What made you so comfortable at the plate?

A: Just simplifying the game. Looking for quality pitches to hit, get the barrel of the bat on it, and slowing the game down. It is so important to stick to your own game plan and know what you are good at without trying to do everything. If you stick to your strengths, you are going to have success.

Q: Now that Brad Anderson and Manny Jefferson are gone, do you feel that you have any added roles, and trying to produce some extra power for the team?

A: No, not at all. Our depth, especially with power, is unbelievable. I think that everybody wants to get involved, and I would love to lead the charge, but we have so many bats, that it is not just on me, by any means.

Q: Who are some of the guys on the team that will be able to step into that role of bringing a little extra power to the team alongside you?

A: I think that everyone on the team can step into that role. This is one of the most talented teams that I have ever played for. We are just so deep at every position. Even at the top of the order, Quincy (McAfee) had one this weekend, (Matt) Gelalich is a strong, strong dude. And then getting to the middle of the order, (Jordan) Qsar and (Austin) Bernard are some big-time bats. We have a long season, and as the games come and the guys get more and more comfortable, I think that you are going to see guys step up and hit some bombs, especially in the middle of the order.

Q: Looking ahead, you have a big trip out to Texas. How important is this trip for the team?

A: It's very important. Something Coach Cooper (Fouts) told us yesterday really rang true. He said that we are all college baseball players at heart, and going into this week, if you love college baseball, you have to love this trip. We go to A&M and to Rice, which are two big-time perennial winning teams. It is definitely a chance to measure ourselves against a quality of baseball that we probably won't see again until the postseason.

Q: What are the team's expectations for the trip?

A: We definitely have high expectations. We have a winning culture in our clubhouse. The expectation is always to beat everyone we are playing. This is a big stretch of baseball, including, but not limited to, the Texas trip. When we get back we have Cal Berkeley, another strong team. We have a big three-week span coming up. We all expect to win, and a desire to win. We want to make sure we go out and represent Pepperdine and show teams that we are here to win, and win often.

Q: How important is it to play these big-time teams in the beginning of the season?

A: I think it is huge. It is so important to have games against real strong, tough opponents so that you can be battle-tested. Especially for the freshmen. The young guys coming in don't really know what big-time D1 baseball is all about yet. Our conference is going to be really competitive, but these two weeks are going to really show those guys what high-level college baseball is, because these are the types of teams we are going to be playing in regionals, super regionals, and into the College World Series.

Q: Going forward with the season, what can we expect from the Waves?

A: You can expect us to compete day in and day out. If it is fair to say that you can expect wins, then you can expect wins. I have confidence in this team to go out every single day and get better, and that is definitely going to produce a lot of wins for this program.

Yasmine Robinson-Bacote, a sophomore on the women's basketball team, has had a great season so far with a team-high 14.7 points per game. She's the first Wave to record 10 double-doubles since 2001. She shares her thoughts on the season and what she likes to do off the court:

Yasmine  Robinson-Bacote

Q: How has the season been going so far?

A: It has been going pretty well. We have had our ups and downs like any other team, but we are definitely hitting our stride. We had a good win against San Diego and we a hoping to keep that momentum going forward as we get into the last couple of games of the regular season.

Q: You had a great game against Pacific a few weeks ago with 25 points and 16 rebounds! What helped you to do so well?

A: We needed to have a really good game and it was just the flow of the game. I didn't really know how many points or rebounds I had until the end. I tried to grab the balls as I saw them and take every shot that I could. The team did a great job of finding me and creating open shots for me, which made my job easier. I tried to make their jobs easier by clearing up the boards when I could. Unfortunately, we did not win, but it was a highlight to see that we could play at such a high level.

Q: When talking to you earlier this season, you said that your goal was to be the best teammate possible and to become a better player every day. Have you been able to meet that goal?

A: I have definitely been working toward it. We have a great coaching staff that brings a lot of different things to the table. I have been trying to learn from them every day and be a sponge and absorb everything. I am still learning and growing, but I am definitely taking steps in the right direction in becoming the player that I want to be.

Q: What more are you looking to get from this season?

A: We want to keep working smarter, rather than harder, because most of the time we are working to the best of our abilities, but we have not been working as smart as we should. We are definitely still growing in that aspect, but we really want to finish off the season well. We are going to have to bring our "A" Game. We need to stay focused, take it day by day, and trust the process.

Q: What is your favorite memory from this season so far?

A: I would have to say the Gonzaga win is still up there. We came in with a hungry mentality and we still have that mentality. It seemed like everything clicked for us and everybody gave a little something. Everybody played so well. It was one of the best games of the season and we got the outcome we wanted. It was a big upset, so it was definitely the highlight of the season.

Q: Looking forward to next season, what are you hoping carries over from the current season?

A: I think we need to continue our progression and not being comfortable with where we are right now. We are making good strides. Maturing is something we have to work on collectively because we will have to look for leadership not only in Kim (Jacobs), but in other players. There is going to be a lot of stepping up from me and my other teammates to try to fill that void that Allie (Green) has been for us. 

Q: You have 10 double-doubles so far this year. What skills have you been working on to remain so consistent?

A: I think it is more about being aggressive, going after the ball and not taking any plays off. Often times you take a play off and miss those rebounds or extra points. For me it has been all about staying consistent and focused and making sure I know what my responsibility is on the court.

Q: Do you have a pre-game ritual before each game?

A: Allie and I blast music, scream at the top our lungs, and jump around. We get our pre-game sweat right there before we actually get out on the court. That is something fun we do and I am really going to miss that next year.

Q: What would a perfect day look like for you?

A: I wouldn't get up at 8 a.m., that would be the first thing. I would wake up about 10 o'clock, get breakfast, watch a little Netflix, and then drive down PCH playing some music and relaxing. Then I would come back and hang out with the team, eat lunch, watch a little more Netflix, eat dinner, watch a little more Netflix and finally go to bed. That would be a perfect day for me.

Q: When you aren't playing basketball or studying, what do you like to do?

A: Definitely hang out with friends, which is mostly the team. We really like to hang out a lot. I like to go out to eat, go to movies and watch Netflix. I really enjoying relaxing.

Men's Tennis Update: Stefan Menichella

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As the men's tennis season continues on, senior Stefan Menichella takes a lighthearted look at how the idea of gratitude makes him a better tennis player:

Stefan  Menichella

Stefan Menichella is the name and tennis is my game. Due to the fact that as a busy student-athlete I never felt the need to voluntarily accept yet another homework assignment, this is my first time writing for the Competing with Purpose blog. However, I am now a second-semester senior and am taking only two classes, so if you or your friends have any homework you don't want to do, just send it my way. Just kidding! All right. Done with my lighthearted intro. Let's get philosophical, shall we?

One cannot explain to an incoming freshman just how much they will learn, grow and develop during these four years. Freshmen, many of you might as well be embryos right now. As a veteran student-athlete on his way out of the college sports scene, if I were to give these young impressionable ears any piece of advice it would be to remain grateful.

Being grateful is the most enjoyable form of acceptance. It's difficult to be worried about past mistakes or future challenges or to be angry with yourself or anyone else when you embody a strong sense of gratitude. Gratitude requires you to expand your perspective and allows you to reside in the present moment.

You may be thinking something along the lines of, "Stefan, enough with this hippie nonsense. Shouldn't you be writing about tennis instead of telling me how to feel?" To answer your question ... probably. But patience, I'm getting to that.

With my college tennis career nearing its end, I have only recently begun to feel truly grateful for each day, practice, match and workout. I have begun to recognize that each day is another opportunity to improve and enjoy doing something I love alongside my closest friends. I'm alive, in good physical condition, above-average looking (up for debate), and I get to run, compete and hit a fuzzy yellow tennis ball several hours a day with my boys!

Largely due to this newly discovered feeling of gratitude, I have been playing matches with more calmness, focus and confidence. This isn't just me talking, however. There is conclusive scientific evidence from MRI scans of the brain that shows that the feeling of gratitude has a significant positive impact on our nervous system. Gratitude allows tension to exit your muscles and stress to leave your brain. As it turns out, these effects have a profoundly positive impact on one's tennis game.

Gratitude helps you play more freely with less concern about results and other things out of your control. This frees up your mind to focus on things that you can control such as strategy or technique. If you made it this far, I'm going to leave you with this: sports and life, in general, become significantly more enjoyable when you are grateful and see everything from a broader perspective.

Allie Green is the only senior on the Pepperdine women's basketball team. As her final games at Pepperdine are approaching - including Saturday's home finale against rival LMU - she reflects on the past four years and gives advice to her teammates:

Allie  Green

Q: What are your thoughts on the season so far?

A: I definitely think that we have surprised people with some games that we have won. We still are very young, so that shows sometimes. However, I think that we are growing, developing and figuring out what we need to do in the last few games.

Q: What are your plans for after graduation?

A: I want to play basketball for as long as I can, so that's the first option. I really want to stay in L.A. and figure my life out from there, but basketball is the first option.

Q: Since Kim Jacobs will be the only senior on the team next year, do you have any advice for her?

A: I would tell her don't panic because there is a lot of stress that comes with being the only senior. It is just like being a point guard on the team. You get a lot of things blamed on you because everything runs through you, but you have to take it with a chip on your shoulder and realize the things you need to do in order for your team to be successful.

Q: What is your favorite memory from this season?

A: Beating Gonzaga. That was big. That was big personally because we had never beaten them before. We were always looked at as the underdogs and they are considered the top of our conference, so it was huge.

Q: How are you feeling about Senior Day this weekend?

A: I am excited. I am probably not going to get emotional, but emotions will be running through my mind and body. I don't want to focus on the fact that it is my last night playing here. I just want to make sure I do all I can for my team to get the win.

Q: What do you think you will miss the most about Pepperdine?

A: My teammates. All the teammates that I have had these past few years. I am with them 24/7 and we have so many memories. That will be the hardest for me.

Q: What was your favorite season over the past four years and why?

A: I would say this one is probably my favorite season. Even though our record doesn't show it, in our practices and when we are all together, it is just so different. There is chemistry on and off the court. I just really have loved it this year.

Q: What have the past years meant to you?

A: A lot. The past four years here have really helped me grow as a person. I have been through a lot and I learned who truly is there for me and who isn't. Everyone here is so helpful with the smallest things and I am really going to miss that.

Q: What advice would you give to your teammates for next year?

A: I would tell them to keep pushing. Even when we get down, keep our heads up. Never giving up is the biggest thing for me because the past four years have been really tough record-wise and we have come so close to winning games. We just need to find that little extra push. I would encourage them to keep trying to change the culture and keep a positive mindset.

Baseball Q&A: Ryan Wilson

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Ryan Wilson, a junior left-handed pitcher for the Waves, tells us about the upcoming season and how the Waves have been preparing and waiting for the season to finally come. The Waves take on Saint Joseph's this weekend at Eddy D. Field Stadium.
Ryan  Wilson

Q: Baseball season is finally upon us. What is the excitement level in the team right now leading up to the first series of the year?

A: We are really excited to finally get out on the field and showcase what we have been working on this year. It has been a long offseason, but a good one, and I think that I speak for everyone in saying that we just want to start playing.

Q: What were preparations like this year compared to the other years you have been here? Anything different that was done that you felt had a really positive impact on the team?

A: This year, the position players ran with the pitchers in the mornings. It was definitely a positive impact because it really helped with the team camaraderie more so than past years, where our morning practices are separate.

Q: How does the semester break affect the performance of the team? It must be a welcome break, but there is always the fear that having that break can be a negative aspect to the team.

A: There is definitely a potential fear to it. However, everyone on the team knows that there is a job to do during that break. We take it upon ourselves to make sure we get the work in to prepare for when we come back to school. I also think that the motivation of being able to start playing games after break makes the break a little more focused on baseball, so when we come back, there isn't a lull in practices where we have to readjust to baseball again.

Q: How have the freshmen meshed with the team? Were they able to fit in right away? And the transfers as well?

A: All the freshmen proved that they're going to fight for the rest of the guys and you're going to see a lot of freshmen come in big for us this year, which will show how much work they've put in to help this team win. The same goes for the two transfers we have. Unfortunately, Duncan McKinnon will have to sit out a year, but both he and Austin Gehle, the other transfer, know their roles and are doing everything they can to help the team. Gehle for sure is going to come up big for the team during the year.

Q: You played in the Cape Cod League this past summer. What was that experience like?

A: It was fun. I learned a lot. There was definitely a lot of baseball. I think that the best part about playing in the Cape is the friends you make. I for sure made some life-long friends while playing. The coaches were incredible too. Really high quality baseball with awesome people around you.

Q: What were some of the things that you learned in the Cape that have really helped you out so far this year?

A: Our pitching coach was kind of a guru about pitching. Personally, he taught me a lot of different grips on the ball in order to make it spin a certain way. I have definitely been using the grips he showed me to make the ball move to where I want it to move, even within the same pitches.

Q: The Waves did not make an NCAA Regional last year after making one the previous two years. How motivating has that been so far in wanting to get back to the postseason?

A: I think it will make it just that much better if and when we do make it. At the same time, we are taking the year every day at a time, and taking the season pitch by pitch and game by game in order to be as successful as we want to be. We can't look to the past and use that as motivation because we need to look to the future and focus on the job ahead of us.

Q: You are pegged to win WCC Pitcher of the Year by D1 Baseball. Does that motivate you to fulfill that, or do you try keep that off of your mind?

A: Again, it is motivating, but those types of things take care of themselves if you stick to your approach and keep the same game plan day after day. If I focus on trying to fulfill that idea, I am going to get away from my game plan, so I keep my mind off of it.

Q: Finally, with the season just around the corner, what can we expect from the Waves this year?

A: I think that you can expect some fun baseball. When we play our Pepperdine baseball, it is hard for any team in the country to beat us. If you come to the games, expect to see some really good baseball, and expect to see guys showing off what we have been working on and guys being really successful in doing so.

James Gehrels, a senior on the men's volleyball team, has truly made waves throughout his time here at Pepperdine. Besides his achievements on the court, he's a three-time Pepperdine scholar-athlete, co-president of the Waves Leadership Council and a member of the NCAA national Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. His most recent accomplishment was being named NCAA Division I SAAC Vice Chair. He talks a little bit about what this means as well as his future goals and plans:

James  Gehrels

Q: So what does this position of NCAA Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee Vice Chair look like for you?

A: As Vice Chair of DI SAAC I work with three other student-athletes and some NCAA staff members to help guide, plan and facilitate everything that the 32 student-athletes on the committee do. These responsibilities include planning out meetings and strategically prioritizing our goals and objectives for the next year. 

Q: What does it mean to you to have this title?

A: I am extremely humbled and excited to have been elected to this position. I have represented the student-athletes of Pepperdine and the West Coast Conference for the past two and a half years and now to be able to serve them in this role for another year is an incredible honor. 

Q: How did attaining this title come about?

A: At the most recent NCAA Convention in Nashville there were elections that were held for vice chairs for this coming year and I was fortunate enough to be selected by my fellow committee members.

Q: What are you most looking forward to accomplish within the position?

A: I'm most looking forward to being able to have an even greater impact on the lives of all Division I student-athletes both current and in the future as well. The decisions that our group helps make will impact the lives of those to come, which is an incredible honor but also a great responsibility.

Q: Since this is your senior year, is this a position you'll pass on to someone else after you graduate?

A: This position of Vice Chair isn't something I pass down, however serving as the West Coast Conference representative is something that another student-athlete will be elected to following the 2017-2018 school year. (Note: national SAAC rules allow Gehring to serve as Vice Chair for 2017-18, even after his graduation and final competition as a student-athlete.)

Q: How did being a Wave help you get to such a prestigious national position?

A: I wouldn't be in the position I am today without all of the help and support that I have received from Pepperdine Athletics and the university as a whole. Being able to represent Pepperdine in this way is an incredible experience and something I will be forever grateful for. It truly has given me a platform to have an impact on our campus here in Malibu, but also the ability to spread what makes Pepperdine such an incredible and special place to others around the country. 

Q: What is your favorite memory to date about working with the Pepperdine, conference and/or national SAAC committees?

A: There are so many amazing memories that it is nearly impossible to put my finger on one or another, but a couple that really stick out would be attending NCAA conventions or the NACDA and Affiliates convention, and of course our #RefueltheWaves crowdfunding campaign which raised funds to directly impact our meal and refueling options here in athletics.

Q: Any plans for what you want to do after graduation (and does athletics factor in at all)?

A: I plan to hopefully attend grad school upon graduation and study Sport Management and Business Administration. I ultimately want to get into collegiate athletic administration one day by becoming a director of athletics. I hope to get there by fundraising and building relationships and continuing to improve the student-athlete experience along the way.

Q: Do you have any other reflections as you look back on your time here at Pepperdine?

A: I'm just so thankful for my coaches and administrators here at Pepperdine who have helped open doors for me to be successful well beyond my time here at Pepperdine. Those relationships and friendships I have made will last a lifetime and for that I am forever grateful.

Bria Richardson, a former four-year letterwinner for the Peperdine women's basketball team and a current graduate manager with the Waves, recently attended the NCAA Emerging Leaders Seminar in Indianapolis. She reflects on the experience that she had, and how it helped her understand where she fits in intercollegiate athletics:

Bria  Richardson

Q: You recently got back from the NCAA Emerging Leaders Seminar. Can you explain what exactly it was?

A: The NCAA Emerging Leaders Seminar included graduate assistants and interns at schools in the NCAA, and it was all about introducing us to the world of college athletics.

Q: How did you hear about the conference, and what made you decide that it was something that you were interested in attending?

A: Several administrators at Pepperdine mentioned the seminar to me because they had been a part of it early in their careers as well.

Q: Was there an overarching theme that the NCAA was portraying at the conference?

A: Yes, we talked a lot about personality traits and how they play into the world of intercollegiate athletics and how the traits link to different roles within athletics. A big part of it was learning about yourself in the workplace and finding the strengths and weaknesses in order to use them in the job at hand. The method we used to identify the traits was called the DISC program. In the DISC program, you take a test and answer questions based on how you would react in certain workplace situations. After the test is finished, the program gives you values for each letter in DISC. The D stands for dominant, the I for inspiring, the S for supportive and the C for cautious. It is very similar to the Meyers-Briggs test or the Strengths-Finder test.

Q: What were some of the largest takeaways that you personally had from the conference?

A: We learned about the NCAA rules that are being talked about and implemented. A couple of the big ones that really stuck with me are the time management plan and the travel day rules. Learning about the rules and how they become implemented was really cool to see. A really great thing the NCAA is doing is giving the student-athletes a say in the proceedings through SAAC (the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee). The biggest takeaway that I had was that they are now listening to the athletes a lot more than they previously were.

Q: How big is the voice of the SAAC in these proceedings?

A: It seems to be very instrumental. SAAC was really pushing the rules that are being talked about and implemented, and it seems like the NCAA is really listening to its student-athletes.

Q: In your current position of graduate manager for the women's basketball team, how can you use what you learned at the conference to benefit the team?

A: Definitely understanding peoples' behavior styles. It's pretty funny because now when I talk to the girls, the letters from the DISC become apparent in the girls. I find myself thinking about which letter each girl would be more dominant in while speaking to them. It has also been helpful in finding their strengths and weaknesses and knowing how to talk to them in order to make them more successful as athletes, but more importantly as human beings. Being able to know how to speak to different people through the DISC program is something that I can see myself using for a long time. I think that a lot of people would benefit form taking the test, not just in sports settings, but also in other work settings, and even family settings.

Q: Thinking back to your playing days at Pepperdine, was there anything that you learned at the conference that you wish you would have known while you were still playing?

A: I wish I would have known how important SAAC is. I think that had I known what kind of voice it gives student-athletes, I would have become more involved than I already was. I served on one of the committees within the campus, but knowing what I do now about how much of a voice they have in the lives of the student-athletes, I would have taken up a leadership position and tried to make even more of a difference.

Q: How do you think that this experience will make you a better leader as you continue your career into collegiate athletics?

A: Listening to our keynote speaker and the other speakers, I think that I have learned the point of being in intercollegiate athletics. It's about the love of the students. It isn't about the money, it isn't about the titles. I think that having the experience that I did, and hearing from different people from all sides of athletics, whether it be the academics side or the compliance side and everything in between, hearing their stories was the best way to learn about what they did. I think that the stories are the best way we can learn about how to do our job in athletics more efficiently.

Q: If you knew someone else who was thinking about attending the conference, would you give them a recommendation to attend? If so, why?

A: I highly recommend it. One of the other takeaways that I had was you get to learn about all the other sectors in athletics. Whether it was academics, student development, compliance, marketing, it was all there. You get to kind of find your niche when you hear about all of the other types of jobs there are in collegiate athletics. Within the conference, there were breakout sessions, where you got to choose the career that you were currently in, which for me was academic support because they didn't have a session specifically for coaching, and I also work with athlete support, and also a session for jobs that you might be interested in going forward. I was able to confirm that I am definitely interested in academic support and student development, but I also learned that the marketing side of things is not something that I could see myself doing. It helps you get a feel for which aspect of intercollegiate athletics is really for you.

Senior swimmer Kelly Presper tells us about the PCSC Championships that started today. She talks through the prep work the team has put in, and also about her four years here at Pepperdine:

Kelly  Presper

Q: How did preparations go for the PCSC Championships?

A: We are just getting to the end of our taper right before conference starts. We started about two weeks ago. When we taper, we ramp up the swimming and the number of yards a couple of weeks before conference, and then leading up to conference, we hold off on the number, so we aren't tired going into the biggest meet of the year. Our taper has been awesome this year. I think the team has really taken the bull by the horns and is motivated to do well at Conference.

Q: What races will you be swimming?

A: I will be swimming the 100 IM, 200 IM and 100 breaststroke. I am really excited for the 100 IM being my last race this year. It is the race that I began swimming when I was 8 years old, and now to be able to swim it in my final collegiate meet will be awesome. This is the first year that the conference has allowed the 100 IM in the meets, so it is awesome to have it be the final race of my career.

Q: What are your personal goals for the conference finals this week?

A: This week, I just want to swim as best as I can and leave it all in the pool. You are always trying to go for best times, and this is definitely the meet to accomplish that.

Q: You said that you have been swimming since you were 8 years old. Why did you choose swimming as a sport to compete in?

A: It's actually a pretty funny story. When I was young, my next-door-neighbors were signing their kids up for swimming and convinced my parents to do the same. I started swimming at the local YMCA during the summer. I quickly realized that there was a difference between the kids who swam year round and the kids who only swam during the summer league. I told my parents that I wanted to be as fast as the kids who swam year round, so I also started swimming year round.

Q: As a team, what do you feel are the goals for the meet, and how confident do you feel that they will be accomplished?

A: I think that our goal as a team is to swim as best we can. We have been working so hard this year. We are such a young team, so I think that being able to keep the spirits high during the meet and swim as best as we can will be the ultimate goal. We as a team are much more focused on supporting each other than the results. We want to keep the team spirit up and keep the morale up. As long as we do that, the results will fall into place.

Q: As a senior this year, what has your leadership role been like? Has it been difficult to be the leader that the team has needed?

A: I don't think that fulfilling the leadership role has been too tough. As a senior, being able to see the girls grow so much this year has been so rewarding and so much fun. The leadership role wasn't so much having to push people individually, but rather to bring the team together and compete to the highest possible level that we could.

Q: This is your final meet as a Wave. What have these last four years meant to you not only as an athlete, but also as a person?

A: So much. Last night, I was trying to comprehend everything that has happened the last four years, and I couldn't put it in to words. I am so grateful for the opportunity to have been a student-athlete here at Pepperdine and to be able to represent Pepperdine the past four years. I have been given so much and have been able to take so much from the knowledge of my peers.

Q: After all is said and done with the PCSC Championships, and your final meet as a Wave is completed, what do you think the emotions will be like?

A: Right now, I am excited to end this chapter of my life. I think that I will always keep swimming, but I am ready to go to conference, perform as best as I can and leave it all in the pool. I think I just want to go out as best as I can. I definitely think it will be bittersweet. I will definitely grieve about it later on, but for now, I am excited about the next four days.

Women's Swim/Dive Update: Erin Himes

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Erin Himes is about to take part in her final college meet this week at the PCSC Championships. Before the event, which begins Wednesday at East Los Angeles College, the senior swimmer reflects on her four years for us:

Erin  Himes

Heading into my final swim meet, I've thought a lot about how swimming has defined my last four years at Pepperdine. Growing up, I never thought that swimming in college would be something I'd be good enough to do and I really never wanted to do it. As I got closer to the end of high school, my times started to drop and I started to see collegiate swimming as a possibility. Pushed forward by a coach who encouraged me to pursue college swimming as a way to find community, I took an interest in Pepperdine.

The minute I met Coach Nick, I was sold. Pepperdine, for me, was the whole package: a close swim team, a beautiful location, quality academics and the opportunity to study abroad despite being a student-athlete. Here, I knew I wouldn't miss out on being a college student just because I was an athlete.

While that's ultimately been very true, I am continually amazed by how huge of a role swimming has played in my life. I did get the chance to study abroad for a summer, to go on Project Serve trips and to form close relationships with my professors, but the impact of being a student-athlete has been far more fulfilling than I could have imagined. I've gained years of wisdom and insight from the greatest and most engaged coaching staff I've ever encountered. And I've gotten to watch a team grow and develop much more than I ever anticipated.

These past four years have been definitive for the future of swimming at Pepperdine. I've watched each year as recruits have gotten faster and faster and more passionate about swimming. I've been pushed harder by each class of freshmen that has come to our team. To be a part of such an incredible era of growth has been a blessing and I look forward to watching this program thrive even more in the future.

When I was a high school senior, I wasn't sure what swimming would mean to me in the future. As a college senior, it now means much, much more than best times and scoring points. Swimming as a Wave has given me purpose and shaped me into much more than just a strong athlete. To get to spend every day with people who want to succeed and want to see each other succeed is an experience like no other, and I head into this final meet knowing that whatever happens in the pool, my college swimming career has been the most fulfilling commitment of my life.

Senior swimmer Laura Graziano reflects on the final home meet of her career, her time at Pepperdine, and what it has meant to be a Wave: 

Laura  Graziano

Q: You just finished your last home meet as a Wave. What are the emotions running through your head?

A: It hasn't quite hit me yet. We had a really great senior meet, and it was a lot of fun, so it hasn't quite clicked that it was our last meet at the pool. I don't think that I am feeling that emotional yet, just because I feel as though I am in denial, but it did seem like a really great way to end our season at home.

Q: How would you gauge the success of the team at the final home meet?

A: It was quick, just us and a few LMU girls, so it was great to swim a lot of races and enter in some events that we wouldn't normally enter. It was fun to change it up and have fun before the conference meet. I think overall, the atmosphere was enjoyable and exciting.

Q: Going into the PCSC Championships, what have preparations been like, and how confident is the team going into it?

A: We are starting our taper, so everyone is excited about that. We get to swim fewer yards or take more breaks in order to prepare. We are feeling confident. We have the most depth that we have ever had, at least in the last four years, so there are a lot of strengths on the team that we can pull from and use in a lot of different races. Knowing that, we have a ton of confidence going into conference.

Q: What are the team goals for the meet? Also, what are your personal goals for this final meet of your career?

A: As a team, we want to be in the top three to five or so. We placed really well last year, so as a team we want to be able to go out with a strong note again this year. Individually, I want to get some more best times. I want to finish my last races ever with the feeling that I've left it all in the pool. We are definitely excited, and think that we are pretty tough to beat this year.

Q: You, along with the five other seniors, were honored this past weekend for senior day. What has it meant to have those five other women on this journey with you as a Pepperdine Wave?

A: They have definitely made my time at Pepperdine on the swim team. Looking back, all of my favorite memories have been with those five girls, so they have shaped my career, both as a swimmer and also just as a Pepperdine student. I think all of my successes are due to them, and I am so thankful that I have had them along this journey with me.

Q: As you reflect on your time at Pepperdine, can you pick out the single-most memorable moment in your career?

A: Outside of the pool, probably the trip that I took to Fiji through IP. It was a medical missions trip, and I really loved being there for a month and be able to serve in that community. It was so different than anything that I have experienced before. My favorite swimming memory has been being able to see how our dynamic has changed over the years that I have been here. Each year, no matter how big the team is, or who is on the team, it has been awesome to see how we have come together as a team. Not really a specific memory, but rather a lot of memories that have contributed to my career as a swimmer here.

Q: What has being a Pepperdine swimmer been like, and how has it affected the course of your life as a person?

A: It has helped me learn discipline for sure. Growing up, I have always swam, but that was a little different because the coursework wasn't the same in middle school and high school. Balancing a course-load from Pepperdine and being on the swim team has made me learn a lot of self-discipline and time management. A lot of great things that I have learned here will also be really applicable later on in my life. Pepperdine has also helped me learn better values. Our coach is such an awesome man, and he always has so much wisdom to share with us. He is not only helping us train physically, but also is training us to become better people.

Q: Thinking back to four years ago when you came in as a freshman, what were your expectations of Pepperdine? Throughout your years here, has Pepperdine lived up to the expectations that you had?

A: You always hear that college is the best four years of your life, so I think that I had high expectations. I was thinking that because it was college, that I needed it to be an amazing experience. Especially hearing about the reputation that Pepperdine has both academically and athletically. I had high expectations for the swim team as well, because they were on the way up after almost being terminated from the university. I definitely had high expectations. Those high expectations have definitely been met. Thanks to the team, I have been able to be a part of a unique community all four years, which has shaped Pepperdine for me. Not only that, but being able to meet so many people through my classes and becoming close with a lot of the faculty members, has definitely gone above and beyond what I could have ever hoped for.

Q: What do you hope the legacy of this year's senior class will be for future Pepperdine swimmers?

A: We have had a great sense of leadership this year, I think. I hope that the rising seniors can carry that role and can make sure that everybody on the team feels included and that they belong to something. I think that we have done a good job so far, so I hope that it continues to be a comfortable environment in which all the girls would be able to push themselves to become better swimmers, but also better people.

Kevin Hempy, a senior on the men's basketball team, has had an interesting journey with basketball. He spent his first year at Westmont before transferring, first tried to walk onto the Waves' team as a sophomore, and eventually made the team this season, just in time for his last year of college. He talks about what the journey has been like and what being on the team has meant for him:

Kevin  Hempy

Q: So you initially started your college career at Westmont. Did you try to play basketball there too? 

A: Yeah, I spent my freshman year at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, I tried out for the team there following my freshman year but I didn't make it.

Q: Has basketball always been an interest of yours?

A: Basketball has always been an important part of my life and something that I have really enjoyed as well as learned from. I played from an early age growing up and in high school but didn't play my first three years of college. In retrospect I'm thankful for the different experiences I had during that time, but basketball was never too far from my mind and I played pickup when I could.

Q: Between transferring here as a sophomore, trying to walk on the team, and then trying again and making it shortly before this season, what did you do in between?

A: Between not making the team as a sophomore and then making it my senior year, I studied abroad in Heidelberg and Africa, so for the first part of that time I didn't play any basketball, but toward the end of last school year I began to think about trying out again this year.

Q: What did you work on improving during this time and what do you think ultimately made the difference?

A: My sophomore year, one of the reasons I didn't end up making the team was a lack of strength. So I tried to improve on this in preparing to try out again, but also feel that just getting older definitely helped with that as well. 

Q: What led you to make the decision to try again?

A: I decided to try out again in the midst of a conversation with a friend here at Pepperdine, Michael Veloz. He encouraged me not to worry about the potential of failure but to focus on pursuing the things I enjoy in life. I knew I loved playing so I decided to go ahead and give it another shot.

Q: How was this whole process overall for you?

A: The process of trying out and joining the team has been a great experience. The people involved in the program -- from the players to coaches and everyone else -- are all talented and quality people and that's made it very enjoyable and really worthwhile.

Q: What does it mean to you to be part of this team now? What has the experience been like?

A: Being a part of the team means a lot to me, Pepperdine in general and basketball are two of my favorite things and I feel very fortunate to have the chance to merge them together. Also, it's just a great group of guys on the team. 

Q: You got to play some important minutes at Pacific recently. What was that like for you? 

A: Playing at Pacific I noticed that the pace of play and physicality was elevated a level even just from practice. So it was a good learning experience for me and I'm very thankful for the chance to play. 

Q: What's your major and what's the plan for post-graduation, if you have one right now? Does basketball factor into the plan at all?

A: I am majoring in sport administration here at Pepp. I'm unsure as of now what I want to do after graduation but if basketball is able to factor into it in any way I would love that. 

Q: What has your whole Pepperdine experience meant to you?

A: I'm definitely very glad I ended up at Pepperdine. I'm really thankful for the different things I have gotten to try here, but more importantly the relationships and people I've gotten to know while here.

Rachel Wilt, a junior swimmer, reflects on the year that has been for the Waves. She's looking forward to Saturday's final home meet and the upcoming conference meet. She also tell us about the seniors and how they have helped her class become the leaders that will be needed for next year:

Rachel  Wilt

Q: Going into the final meets of the year, what are preparations like?

A: Right now, we are getting ready to finish the season and we are working really hard before we start our taper for conference. These past couple weeks have been really tough, but also really rewarding, so everyone is looking forward to starting our taper.

Q: You mention a taper. What exactly is that and why is there a need for it?

A: We work really hard all season, pushing ourselves as much as we can. For conference, we back off the training a little bit so we can have the best chance to race at our most peak performance in order to get the best time possible in our best event.

Q: Are the preparations for the last meets of the year any different than the preparations for meets earlier in the season?

A: Not really, to be honest. A lot of us do swim different events for the final meet before conference than we do for conference, but other than that, the preparations are very similar.

Q: As you reflect on the season, how would you gauge the success of the team this year?

A: We have a really strong team this year with a lot of depth, which is nice. One of the benefits of having such a big team is the depth of our squad and having good swimmers in every event. It is really exciting to think about what we can do during the conference meet.

Q: Obviously there have been ups and downs during the year. What do you think was your favorite event of the year so far?

A: Going to Morro Bay, when we swim against Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, is always really fun. We kind of make it of a vacation in a sense which is always nice.

Q: Which events do you plan on swimming in during the conference meet, and how will they differ from the meet before conference?

A: In the meet before conference, I plan on swimming the 50m free and 100m breaststroke, among some others that haven't really been decided yet. During conference, I will swim just the 50m free and the 100m free, so I am not too different in the events that I swim.

Q: Why do some girls swim different events in the meet before conference?

A: Some people like to not swim the same events right before we taper so they don't psych themselves out of the event. The girls want to give themselves the best chance to swim their fastest in their best event at conference.

Q: What are your expectations both personally and for the team for the conference meet?

A: I really hope that we beat LMU. I think that we are good enough, and we came so close last weekend, that I think in conference we will have the drive and the push to beat them. As for personally, I have some goals to drop time and do the best that I can to help the team.

Q: The conference meet coming up will be the last meet for your six seniors. What have those seniors meant to the team this year in terms of leadership?

A: They have been huge. The other juniors and I have been thinking a lot about how much they have done for us, and how much we will miss having them around next year when we are seniors.

Q: Do you think that the seniors of this year have helped prepare you for your senior season when you are the ones the younger swimmers will look up to for guidance?

A: Absolutely. They have done such a good job at guiding us and showing us what it means to be the leaders of this program.

Pepperdine senior Jeremy Major became the men's basketball team's all-time leader in assists last week, surpassing the old record of 450 set more than 30 years ago. Yet the season has also been a challenging one for the team as a whole, plagued with some tough injuries. Major reflects on his recent accomplishment as well as his senior year:

Jeremy  Major

Q: So you're now the school's all-time leader in assists! How does that feel? 

A: It is a great accomplishment but more than anything I thank the man upstairs who continues to bless me throughout my life. I also thank all my former and current teammates that I've played with because without them this accomplishment wasn't possible.

Q: What does setting that record now officially mean to you?

A: In terms of my career at Pepperdine it does mean a lot to have set this record at this amazing university. It feels great to leave a positive print on the program before I depart. 

Q: What was the moment like for you right after setting that record?

A: The moment was more of a realization of like, man, I really just broke a record that has lasted 33 years. I called my mom and my bro Shawn Olden right after and just spoke and enjoyed the moment with them. It was awesome. 

Q: This has been a tough season with injuries, what's kept you personally and the team going strong? 

A: More than anything just staying positive throughout it all. I believe everything you go through in life is for a reason. There has been a lot of adversity and the challenges really tell you about yourself. 

Q: How hard has it been to lose Amadi Udenyi to a season-ending injury? 

A: It has been really tough without Amadi. That is my brother on and off the court and to not have him around has been hard. But it is always good to see him in good spirits when he comes around because he brings a different type of energy to our team. It really hasn't set in yet that this was my last year playing with him, but I know it will once it's all said and done. What is crazy is he has a very good chance of becoming the all-time assist leader next year as well! We've been close ever since we've gotten here so he's like family to me. He's been through a lot when it comes to injury, but I am glad that he will be able to return next year and continue his dream.

Q: How are you helping the young players get better? 

A: It's been awesome. I do my best to understand that they are freshmen and just try to teach the young boys as much as I can. It has been fun, though, on and off the court with them. They are really good guys that make it exciting to come to practice every day. Between Knox (Hellums) and Elijah (Lee) they make me laugh almost every time I am with them.

Q: What are you looking forward to for the rest of this season, especially since it's your senior year?

A: I am looking forward to us just competing and playing as hard as we can. If we do those things each game I can live with whatever the results are. But I am also going to just enjoy these final moments.

The Pepperdine women's track team competed in their first-ever indoor track meets last year. While all the indoor track meets up until now have been held at Northern Arizona, this Friday they'll be heading to Washington and the UW Invitational. Claudia Rodriguez, a captain of the women's track team, describes what the experience has been like, what she's looking forward to for the upcoming meet, and reflects on her senior year in general:

Claudia  Rodriguez

Q: Last year was the first time for indoor track. Now that it's the second time around, is it any different? 

A: It's definitely different this time around. Last year indoor was a new experience for pretty much all of us. We didn't know what to expect, but now coming back for the second time, we all had a better idea of how the meet was going to go. We all knew it was our first meet and we competed just three days after we came back from break, so we all just wanted to go into the meet, see where we were at, and have fun.

Q: At this point you've only run indoor at Northern Arizona, but since the next indoor meet is at Washington, are you excited about running indoor somewhere new?

A: I am so excited about running in Washington! Personally, I've never been to the Pacific Northwest, so this is going to be a fun experience. This is a very fast meet, so the competition will definitely push us to run some fast times.

Q: What are you looking forward to in general about the meet and what goals are you setting?

A: Like I said, this meet is fast. It's still early in the season, but I am hoping to run some good races in Seattle. This is a great opportunity to run against some amazing competition.

Q: What have you liked so far about running indoor?

A: Indoor is a great way to get the season started. It's a good indicator of where you are and helps you realize what needs to be done for outdoor in order to reach your goals. And traveling with the team is always a good time. We have a lot of fun together!

Q: What's it been like running for Pepperdine & running for coaches like Robert Radnoti and Venus Jewett?

A: I've learned a lot running for Pepperdine. Originally, I didn't plan on running in college, but now I can't imagine not running. My teammates are the best, and Coach Rad and Coach V work really hard to make us the best athletes and individuals we can be. I've had to sacrifice a lot for the team, but I wouldn't have it any other way. Running for Pepperdine has honestly been one of the greatest joys of my life.

Q: What has the whole Pepperdine experience been like for you? 

A: I'm not going to lie, it's been tough going to school so far away from home, but I've been afforded a lot of great opportunities here at Pepperdine. The chance to run here has been great, I'm getting a great education, and I feel confident that both my schooling and athletic training are going to serve me well in the future.

Q: So you also work in the athletics video production crew. What is that like and what do you enjoy about that? 

A: I love working in the athletics video production crew! I love all sports (even if I can't play them), so having a job where I get to be involved with the other sports is fun!

Q: What's your major and what are your plans for life post-Pepperdine? Is running involved in that future?

A: I'm an integrated marketing communications major and I am hoping to work in the music industry after graduation. I'll probably move back home to Nashville and try and find a job there. As of right now, running professionally isn't in the picture, but you never know. I'd love to help coach a team if at all possible. Regardless of it I'm running professionally or not, I hope to be able to stay active by running and lifting.

Senior swimmer Kathrine Kuhlmann talks to us about her time as a Pepperdine student-athlete, and how the semester break affects the team heading into the final meets of the school year, including the upcoming PCSC Championships:

Kathrine  Kuhlmann

Q: The Waves were just at a meet hosted by LMU. How do you feel that meet went as a team?

A: It went really well! We were back and forth between first and second for the entire meet, so we were really excited, and had a lot of good energy. It was a really good precursor for conference because we were super supportive of one another and cheering for every girl on the team the entire time, which is what we need to get through a four-day meet like conference.

Q: How do you think that you will be able to keep up that energy going into the conference meet (February 8-11)?

A: It is kind of a good thing that we took second to LMU this weekend because falling by that small of a margin is going to get us even more excited for conference. We know that we can beat them, and we will have that feeling and that fight to beat them in conference.

Q: With the sport being a split season, with competitions during both the fall and the spring, how did the semester break affect the outcome of the meet?

A: I think that all of us were really ready to be back in the pool competing. We all went back home and trained with our club teams over break, so it was nice to be back with our own teams and be able to support one another. I think that was a big reason why we were able to rally behind each other. We had been apart for two weeks, so it was really nice to be back together as a team again.

Q: What was your training like during the break?

A: It was rough. I did early morning sessions as well as late-night sessions with my club team back home. For me, the break wasn't really too much of a break, because I was training for two hours every morning, training every night for two hours, and then eating and sleeping in between. Training was extremely tough back at home, and it is really nice to be back in Malibu training with my team, rather than my old club team.

Q: Did the cold weather of Missouri during the winter months affect you wanting to train over the break? And if so, how did you push yourself to get in the pool despite the cold?

A: Oh, absolutely. It made it so hard to get out of bed in the morning. You are bundled up in blankets, keeping warm, but you have to get up and go jump into a cold pool, which is an awful feeling. But knowing that conference is coming up, and that the biggest part of our season was after break, really gave me the motivation to get out of bed and into the water. Also, this is the end of my career as a swimmer, so knowing that it is only another couple of weeks with my club team that I have been a part of since middle school, gave me the motivation to finish with them on a high note.

Q: How did you come to be a swimmer? Was it something that you were always interested in?

A: I have been swimming since I was four. I have really bad knees, so it was the only sport that I could do. It started out as physical therapy, but eventually became a passion and a massive part of my life up to this point.

Q: You just mentioned that you weren't able to play any other sports growing up because of your knees. Why is that?

A: I was born with twisted bones, so my kneecaps dislocate all the time. Anything that is hard on your joints, like simply walking, is a challenge for me, so being able to get in the water and only have to use my joints to push off the walls makes it so nice that I get to partake in athletic competition.

Q: You are a part of the Waves Leadership Council. What exactly is the council?

A: On other campuses around the nation, there are organizations called SAAC, but here at Pepperdine, we call it the Waves Leadership Council. We meet twice a month talking about leadership. Last semester we went through a book called Habitudes, by Tim Elmore, which taught us better ways to lead, and how to translate those aspects to our athletic teams. We also are on separate sub-committees. I am a part of the Chaplain committee, so being able to be a part of the spiritual life on campus in our athletic department has been a really cool experience.

Q: This is your fourth and final year as a Pepperdine Wave. What has the student-athlete experience been like for you, and how has Pepperdine affected the course of your life?

A: I have absolutely loved being a student-athlete at Pepperdine. I feel that athletics treats us extremely well. It is such a good community, with so many friends. I have also made a lot of connections through Pepperdine athletics with all the opportunities that they have provided. With every Bible study and every meeting and leadership meeting, there is so much that I have learned to be able to be a leader in so many other aspects of my life.

Keyari Sleezer, a sophomore on the Pepperdine women's basketball team, is driven on and off the court, and her love for her family and teammates shines through her. She shares her thoughts on her season so far and her goals for the future:

Keyari  Sleezer

Q: How are you feeling about this season so far? Have you been able to meet your goals so far this season?

A: I think we started out rougher than any of us expected during preseason, but I think that we were able to learn from it and it has made us a lot better. We are on the right path to where we want to be. From not playing much last season, and now being able to play and help the team, has been going toward my goal. My goal is to start and give as much as I possibly can to the team, so I could always do more.

Q: Has this year been different than last year?

A: In the preseason we focused on culture, so we are a lot closer now as a family, especially off the court. We have been working toward how we transfer that culture onto the court.

Q: What are some changes you want to see as the season progresses?

A: I want to see us win a lot of games. I think one of the big things for us is making sure that we are all healthy and everyone focused on the same thing. That is our ultimate goal.

Q: What was the transition from high school to college like for you?

A: My freshman year of high school was pretty bad, so I was really nervous about the transition from high school to college. I expected the worst, so it ended up going way better than I thought it would. I also had to learn a lot more about basketball, rather than just being able to play.

Q: How has having a family of athletes influenced you?

A: Back home we are known as a basketball family because my dad played, which was really awesome.  I was also able to practice a lot with my brother as we were growing up, which helped me get better. My dad actually works in construction, so he built us a half-court basketball court for us to practice on. He also always worked out with me and was always at my games.

Q: Is your goal still to go to medical school?

A: I am technically a business administration major, but I am also pre-med and minoring in Spanish. I want to be a doctor and open my own practice one day.

Q: What is your role on the team?

A: I am playing post this year, so my role has changed a lot. Now my role is to get rebounds, to not let the other team score in the paint, and to get easy buckets for my team. Going from a guard to a post, I am usually faster than the people who are guarding me, so I have to take advantage of those opportunities.

Q: What has been your favorite memory with the team? What are you looking forward to doing with the team?

A: Traveling is always fun. We have some fun stories on the bus. Our team is always singing. We listen to a lot of music and do a lot of karaoke. We have some people on our team who aren't the best singers, but they are the ones who always want to sing. It's really funny and it is a lot of fun! I think we are really young and we are looking to get even better. It is cool because we get to work with the coaches and grow together. I think we have even bigger goals for the seasons to come.

Q: If you could switch places with anyone for a day, who would it be and why?

A: I think it would have to be my dad. He works really hard, so it would be a really hard day. I think it would be really cool because he is one of the people I really look up to. I know what he has gone through, but to actually live a day in his shoes would be eye-opening. I think it would make me appreciate him even more.

Women's Tennis Update: Christine Maddox

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With the spring semester having just begun and the spring tennis season about to get underway, senior Christine Maddox checks in again with another update on what's been happening with the Waves:

 

Christine  Maddox


I can't believe that I am saying this, but I just finished my last first practice day of my college tennis career. It has been a 3 1/2-year whirlwind, and to think that I am beginning my last season playing as a Wave is a lot to take in.

 

To recap this past fall 2016 semester, we gained two wonderful new additions to our squad, Ashley Lahey and Mayar Sherif Ahmed, who have consistently proven that they can bring it on the tennis court. One of our talented sophomores, Luisa Stefani, and my fellow senior, Jean Runglerdkriangkrai, reached the doubles finals of the prestigious All-American Collegiate tournament at the Riviera Country Club which qualified them, as well as Luisa for singles, into the National Indoor Championships in New York. I, along with my doubles partner Mayar, fell short in the quarterfinal round, but would get another chance in the regional tournament to follow.

 

Many of us competed in the Southwest Regional tournament in San Diego in October, and the end result was a resounding sweep for the Waves. Ashley was able to bring the singles title home for the Waves, and my doubles partner Mayar and I were able to take home the doubles title, which automatically qualified all three of us to go to the National Indoor Championships in Flushing Meadows, New York, to compete even further along with Luisa and Jean. During National Indoors, our other brave sophomore Dzina Milovanovic was competing her heart out all by herself in the Jack Kramer Club Invitational and reached the semifinals!

 

National Indoors was a rough turn of events in which many of us were not happy with the way we played, however, it just taught us that success does not just appear out of nowhere without discipline, hard work and a toughness against adversity. I know that this experience will fuel me to push forward and take what I can away from my final season as a Wave.

 

As for the academic portion, this past fall was my hardest semester yet pertaining to classes and the time that they demanded from me. I took two of my hardest sports medicine major courses along with a couple of history classes, and the amount of stress that I felt did not compare to any of my past semester experiences, which I did not think could happen. However, this past semester taught me that perseverance and discipline does not only assist me on the tennis court but in the classroom as well, which has shown me that no goal is too large or grand for me to accomplish.

 

This then brings me to current times. With new rankings having emerged, Mayar and I are ranked #3 in doubles, which excites me even more with the prospects of what this final season could bring. Jean and Luisa are ranked #8 in doubles, which puts two of our doubles teams in the top 10! Luisa, Ashley and Mayar are all ranked in the top 25 in singles (8, 21, and 22) which also makes us a force to be reckoned with, especially with our team ranking clocking in at a solid #3!

 

This coming Thursday, five of us will be competing in the Freeman Memorial tournament in Las Vegas, Nevada, including myself, in which I hope to kick off the spring season right in order to prepare for the approaching dual matches. Our first dual match is against UNLV in the ITA Kickoff Weekend that we will be hosting on the 28th of January, which will launch us into our spring season.

 

I will continue to work hard for my teammates and give Pepperdine all I have for my last season as a Wave, and because no goal is too grand, as I have learned in this past fall semester, I believe that our team can pull off the final win in May if we can keep on working hard with the passion, talent and heart that I know we all have.

Senior Erin Himes of the Pepperdine women's swimming team tells us about being a two-semester sport and looks back on her time at Pepperdine. Swim and dive have their season split in two, with one half being held during the fall semester, and the other portion during the spring semester. Everything is working toward the PCSC Championships from February 8-11.

Erin  Himes

Q: The swim and dive season is a split season. What is that like, knowing that you will be competing for a lot of the school year?

A: It is definitely a lot, especially managing school both semesters, and competing the whole time. But, it is good to have the fall to figure out where we are at as a team, and seeing what we need to work on going into the spring. In the spring, we really get to focus on swimming fast at conference. Everything in the fall is focusing on each individual meet, and the spring is completely focused on conference and getting ready for that meet.

Q: So you would say that the spring semester is a little more intense than the fall semester?

A: Absolutely. It is shorter, but the meet is so much more important than all the other meets. There are a lot less meets, in order for us to rest and prepare for the one big one at the end.

Q: Knowing that you have the second half of the season remaining, does the motivation to train during winter break remain the same as during the semester itself?

A: We are all definitely encouraged to get in the water a lot over break, because the second half of the season is so important. We all go home, and train with either a team or on our own. Then we come back a week early from break and have a really intense week of practice before anybody else is on campus to get back in shape for the spring semester.

Q: Will you personally be training by yourself or with a team? And is the team usually a club team that you swam with in high school?

A: I will be training with the club team I swam with in high school. A lot of the girls go back and train with the club team that they swam with over winter break.

Q: Looking back on your four years at Pepperdine, have the more memorable meets come during the fall or spring semester of the season?

A: I would say conference is always the most memorable, swimming-wise, because the energy at that meet is so electric and so much fun. Plus, everybody always swims so well, so it is a really encouraging time and a good note to go out on. Another meet that we all really love is the Cal Poly meet. It is always a really fun weekend. I would say that those meets are my most memorable in my career.

Q: What are your goals going into these last couple of meets?

A: Just to have fun and enjoy it. Swimming will end for me after college, so being able to enjoy my last meets as a competitive swimmer will mean the world to me. I also, of course, want to swim my best times in the events that I swim.

Q: What have these past four years here meant to you, both as an athlete and as a student?

A: I love Pepperdine so much. I have absolutely had the best four years of my life here. Especially being on the team. Coach Nick (Rodionoff) was the reason I came to Pepperdine, and he is my reason why I have loved my swimming career so much. And being on the team with all of these girls has been so fun and encouraging. I have really loved getting the chance to participate in a collegiate sport. Academically, I have had such a great four years. I have so many professors here who care about me and made a huge impact on my life.

Q: What are expectations like for the remainder of the season, and how do you think that the team will achieve those goals?

A: I think the expectations are pretty high. We had a great year last year, and we want to improve on that. We had a lot of really good freshmen come in both last year and this year, so having more people who can contribute both to a positive environment and also to be able to score higher is really great. Hopefully we will get to improve on our score in conference, and everybody will individually be able to get new best times and be proud of their season.

Kayla Blair, a sophomore on the Pepperdine women's basketball team, has learned a lot from her time playing the sport. She shares with us her hopes and goals for this season, and how what she has learned has helped her become a better player:

Kayla  Blair

Q: How has the season been going so far?

A: It has been a little rough. There have been a few games we should have won, but we have a lot of potential. We are starting to find the things we have to do to win, so I think it will get better.

Q: What goals did you set for yourself for this season? Have you been able to meet those?

A: This season I really wanted to be more aggressive on the court and not necessarily score more, but be more aggressive by getting rebounds and loose balls. I haven't met that goal yet, but I was starting to be more aggressive in practice today, so I feel like from this point on it will just get better.

Q: You had a really great first season last year. What was it like to be a freshman on the team?

A: It was a crazy ride. I didn't go in expecting to play a lot, so I had a lot of pressure on my shoulders, and I think I did well with that. This year, I am using the things I learned last season toward this season.

Q: What is your role on the team?

A: My role is to come to the games and be aggressive and get loose balls and rebounds and do the little things that people don't necessarily want to do. I don't have to score 50 points a night, but I need to do the little things that help us win.

Q: I saw that you scored 1,000 points during your high school career. What was that experience like?

A: It was pretty cool because not many people at my high school had done it before me. We were such a good team, so it felt good to do it with great people around me.

Q: You seem to have a family of athletes. How has that influenced you and your sport?

A: Growing up around athletes, you don't want to be the odd one out and not play a sport. In my family we have a lot of professional athletes, so I had people to look up to and see all the hard work they had to put in to get to where they are. I knew I had to do the same to even get a scholarship.

Q: Why did you choose to come to Pepperdine?

A: At the time, the coaches that recruited me were some of the best people I had ever met in my life and even though we do not have all of the same coaches, they are still really great. And you can't beat the view or the weather. I always wanted to go to school in Southern California.

Q: What has been your favorite memory with the team?

A: It actually happened on our last trip back from New Mexico. We did the "Beats Challenge" where you put headphones on and blast the music, so you can't hear yourself and then sing at the top of your lungs, while everyone else listens. That was really fun on the way back.

Q: What are you hoping to get out of the rest of your time here at Pepperdine?

A: I am hoping to get a great group of friends. They say you find your best friends in college, and I really think that my teammates will be my best friends forever. Academically, I want to get a degree from a great school that will help me get the job I want.

Senior right-handed pitcher Chandler Blanchard speaks about the recently concluded Blue and Orange World Series and how it prepares the Pepperdine baseball team for the upcoming season. He also reflects on his time at Pepperdine:

Chandler  Blanchard

Q: How did the Blue and Orange World Series showcase the skills of the guys, and how did it help with the preparations for the season?

A: We got to see a lot of guys show off their stuff. It was pretty impressive. A lot of guys really stepped up and competed really well. It was awesome to watch, both from the hitting side of the game and from the pitching side.

Q: You were a captain this year. What exactly does the captain do?

A: The captain puts together a lineup and decides who is pitching for that specific game. You determine when pitchers need to go in and come out, and keep track of pitches. It is really like being a true manager. You get to see how the coaches think, and decide what matchups are going to be advantageous for your specific team. It is definitely fun to see the other side of the game than what you are used to.

Q: Is there a draft aspect to the series? How does it work?

A: There is a draft. This year was a little different to previous years. The captains only drafted the position players, and the coaches decided which pitchers were on each team. The coaches chose based on who they wanted to see match up against which hitters. It was a little different, but it was definitely interesting.

Q: Looking back on the three other Blue and Orange World Series you have been in, how did this one compare to the others?

A: There have been some really good series. I remember that my freshman year, the series was won on a walk-off. A couple years ago was a complete five-game sweep. The World Series is all about competition. They are about getting to compete after so many weeks of practicing. It is a chance to get away from practice and get to a game-like situation.

Q: How do you feel the series prepares you for the season?

A: I think that this series showed that our team has a lot of heart and a lot of drive to play. There were a couple of comeback wins in the series, which shows us that we also have a lot of fight in us, and that we won't give in to hard opponents. I think that we are pretty mentally tough, which helps a lot.

Q: Now that the fall is over, looking back on the fall practices that you have been in, how does this one stack up? And how have you progressed as a player throughout the off-seasons of college baseball?

A: It's crazy how fast the four years have flown by. I remember the first time in my freshman year, coming out to the field going through all the "hell week" stuff that we do. And my progression and the progression of my teammates that have been there and been through it is just awesome. It is so weird to think that we are the oldest of the bunch now, and we are taking the roles of people that we looked up to. Now we have guys that are looking to us to show them what to do, and how to do it. It is pretty cool to think of all the years that we have been through, and I am excited to see what the final year has in store.

Q: As we go into December and winter break, how are you going to prepare for the season to come?

A: I am going to stay on my throwing program and keep lifting. I am probably going to work with Evan Dunn when I am home in Las Vegas, because he is local and I will be able to throw with him. Just stay on all the routines that we engrain during the fall, and stay healthy.

Q: What can we expect from the Waves this year?

A: I think that we have a pretty good shot of going far. We have a lot of pitching depth. We have bats all over the team. One through nine is unbelievably solid, plus guys that can come off the bench and pinch-hit. I think that we are going to be good. We are really deep in all aspects of the game, and I think that is going to translate really well this season.

Women's Diving Q&A: Sydney Newman

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Sydney Newman, a senior women's diver, has earned all-conference honors each of her first three years during her Pepperdine career. She describes her experiences and what diving means to her, and she shares how she deals with the mental and physical challenges of the sport:

Sydney  Newman

Q: How did you get into diving?

A: I got into diving in high school. Growing up, I was always doing gymnastics. In elementary school, I was into trampoline and tumbling, and, at my gym, they had indoor diving practices there. I knew that I would do much more with diving than trampoline, so I switched over to diving in my sophomore year of high school.

Q: What brought you to Pepperdine?

A: I knew that I wanted to go to a college in southern California. I was in contact with a few different coaches, and Pepperdine was too beautiful to say no to. I loved the coach here, the team and everything about this school. It was a pretty easy choice when it came down to at the end.

Q: What is it like to be coached by Nick Rodionoff, who is a renowned diving coach?

A: It's great. I honestly could not imagine having a different coach for the past four years. Having a coach that wants us to work further to achieve our full potential in all aspects of our lives really helps when you're a full-time student and also involved in many other obligations on campus. He's so great with understanding our struggles and how to balance everything. He is our number one fan in and outside the pool.

Q: What does it take to become a good diver?

A: It takes practice. It requires toughness both mentally and physically. In diving, it's a mental sport. So that's not something you can practice. If you practice and have skills, then you may be the best aerialist in the world. If you get a mental block, then it's not going to help that you are the best aerialist. I think it is critical to know what your potential is, and to work through those mental blocks. Know that you're good at what you do.

Q: As you mentioned, mental blocks are something divers have to overcome. What helps you overcome those?

A: Having the support of your teammates helps, because they can all relate to those mental blocks. Though you might not get over them completely, having that support can help to make you feel less stressed and easier to overcome. Having a coach like Nick definitely helps as well. He never gets mad at us, never punishes us. When we are struggling, he works with us to get through it. Keep persevering and don't get discouraged.

Q: You've earned all-conference honors in diving each of your three years. What made it possible?

A: I would say my whole team. We all work for the success of each other. Also my coach, who has been there in and outside for all of us, makes us feel like he's always there for us. I would go to him for life talks, because he is so wise. Also just finding the balance in everything helped. Knowing that I am stressed, but also recognizing that diving is what I am supposed to be doing right now. After I graduate, I most likely will not be going on a diving board regularly, so I recognize that I need to enjoy while it lasts.

Q: Your sister, Samantha, is also a diver on the team. What is having her as a teammate like?

A: I love it. We have a funny dynamic. If my teammate, who is not my sister, is doing something wrong, then I try to be supportive and caring. But if my sister were to goof off, then I'd go "Samantha! Stop!" I could not imagine these past two years without her. It's been the most amazing addition to the team. We always do everything together, and it's been so much fun.

Q: How do our swimmers and divers get along? Is it a close-knit community?

A: Our practices are different. Coming into a freshman year, the coach made one group message as a whole, and we live together. My roommate, who I have roomed with since freshman year, is a swimmer, and my best friends are also swimmers. I have been with them all four years, and we get to bond during the meet so we tend to be really close. The only difference is that we have different practices, but everything else we do together.

Q: How do you plan to end your Pepperdine career?

A: The big splash. I know that I've enjoyed diving the entire time I've been at Pepperdine, so I want to enjoy my last semester with a competitive mindset. I want to still put in the hard work, but I've recognized that there are more important things in life than getting first place. I don't want to get discouraged by how I perform, but want to be able to finish strong.

Men's Golf Q&A: Roy Cootes

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Roy Cootes is a sophomore on the men's golf team, and is one of the team's leading scorers. He had one of the best freshmen seasons in school history, and he has carried it over to his second season. He collected top-six finishes in the last three tournaments of the fall, and 11 of his 15 rounds were below-par. He plans to keep this impressive record going throughout the spring season, and he talks about how he plans to do so:
Roy  Cootes

Q: What did you do to prepare for this season?

A: I played about four or five tournaments over summer to get me ready for the season. I played against other college golfers around the nation, and I played pretty well enough to be confident coming into the season. Having the new freshmen coming in has pushed myself to get better. It's been fun to have a new group of people come in and form good team chemistry. 

Q: How do you perceive your play so far in the season, and how will you end this year?

A: This season, I could not have asked for a better record so far. For spring, if I could just keep doing the same thing, then it will be a good season.

Q: How has the Pepperdine golf program influenced you?

A: We have two great coaches, and they have helped me refine my craft much better. It's good to surround myself with a great group of people. The team chemistry is awesome. We have a great group. We all get along together, and we love to hang out with each other.

Q: You have a little more than two months between fall and spring. How do you or the team plan to maintain the momentum?

A: We will keep having practices and weights. Over Christmas break, we will each play a tournament, and have that lead into the spring. It will give us an idea of where we are, and what we need to work on to improve.

Q: What was your personal aspirations for this season, and do you think you have exceeded the level you expected to achieve so far?

A: I feel like I have exceeded my expectations. Going into the season, my plan was to not finish outside the top 20, and I definitely exceeded that. It's been fun. I love being here, and it makes everything better when you play much better than you expect yourself to do.

Q: What are your aspirations for the next two and a half years at Pepperdine?

A: To win a national championship as a team over the next two years. It would be awesome. This year, I hope we get to Nationals, and I think we are capable of achieving it. For me personally, to be an All-American in the years to come. I want to focus on being a good teammate and achieving many goals as a team.

Q: What motivates you to play really well?

A: The guys on the team, and everyone involved in the process, motivates me to push further, and push the team further as well. I think it gets us to where we are.

Q: What does Pepperdine golf mean to you?

A: It's heart. We have a lot of heart on the team. We always play for each other and not for ourselves. The bond gets stronger and stronger as time goes on. We always have each other's backs and we know that the team is there to support and encourage each other.

Women's Basketball Q&A: Sydney Bordonaro

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A redshirt freshman on the women's basketball team, Sydney Bordonaro has come back strong after an injury ended her first season at Pepperdine. She was the team's top scorer in the first two games of the season and is averaging 9.8 points per game through four games. She is excited to continue to show her potential on the court:

Sydney  Bordonaro

Q: Tell me little bit about your background in playing basketball.

A: I'm from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I started playing basketball when I was 5 in a YMCA league. Ever since I started playing basketball, I didn't want to stop. We only lost about eight games total while I was in high school. Our high school was very successful.

Q: Your hometown is in Pennsylvania. What brought you to Pepperdine?

A: I had a connection into Pepperdine. Coach Mallory, when she was the assistant coach here a couple years ago, was previously an assistant coach at the University of Pittsburgh. I knew her from there, and that's where that connection started. So what brought me here was the coaching staff. I loved Coach Mallory, and I really, really loved Coach Ryan. I liked the fact that they wanted to turn the program around and I would be part of that transition. I wanted to be part of something where I felt like my contribution matters.

Q: In your first season, you played the first four games and had to sit out the rest. How did that make you feel?

A: It was awful. I've never had to sit out for that long a period of time before. So it was difficult for me to sit there and watch, but I've told everyone that my redshirt year was also the biggest blessing I've ever asked for. I've matured, not only as a player, but also as a person. There were many things that I felt like I needed to work on, and I was able to get better at them during my redshirt year. I feel like I've grown and matured. It was nice to get that year back, because I knew I wasn't quite doing what I was hoping to do.

Q: How was dealing with an injury? What helped you in recovering from the injury?

A: Karissa, who is our athletic trainer, helped me so much, and Adam, our strength and conditioning coach. I give them full credit for this. Also, my doctor, Dr. Knapp, also helped a lot. He does all the shoulder surgery for the Clippers, Kings and other sports teams. He is one of the best in the field, and he was very cautious with my shoulder. It was my second shoulder surgery, and the surgery itself has 98% success rate, so, in theory, it wasn't supposed to hurt again. My first surgery was with a famous orthopedic surgeon in Pittsburgh. That's why I need to be careful and take good care of my shoulder. I should be cautious that it could be coming back, but I think it's a lot stronger now.

Q: What motivates you to be the best you can be?

A: I love basketball more than anything on this earth. "Ball is life." As corny as it sounds, there is nothing I want to do more than to play basketball. It's not hard to be motivated, because my love for basketball is stronger than everything else. I know that I have very average athletic ability. I know that I need to work 10 times harder than them to even have a chance to compete against people with great athletic abilities. Some people may say that I am not supposed to be successful in what I do simply because I am not given what others are given, but I work hard to overcome that barrier.

Q: How does it feel to be back on the court?

A: It's amazing. Last year, I was in slight depression. Everyone knew that I was sad about not being able to play with my teammates. The fact that I am able to go out there with my teammates by my side reminds me to achieve greater things on the court. Sometimes when I feel tired and not excited to go to practice, I remind myself how it felt when I was sitting out. It feels amazing to contribute.

Q: How did you prepare for the season, as you were getting better?

A: The biggest thing for me was to not only get back to where I was as a basketball player when I got injured, but also to try and be better. It was a bit difficult, because I had a very small period of time to do that. I got cleared for contact in August, and we started the season in the beginning of October. I think I still have some areas of the game that I need to work on, but there are areas that I improved. With the injury, I was able to do some shooting, but I wasn't allowed to do as much dribbling or playing. It hurt me a little bit, but it provided me with some perspective that I can always work on something to improve my skills.

Q: You were our top scorer for the first two games. How do you feel about your performances?

A: I'm happy with it, but it doesn't matter about scoring. My teammates are setting me up, and creating shots for me. Everyone else is doing the dirty work. Barbara (Sitanggan) and Paige (Fecske) are doing a really great job of getting me the ball. I honestly have to give credit to them. I appreciate them so much that I'm excited to have more years to spend with them.

Q: How do you plan to maintain a high level of performance throughout the season?

A: I think I need to continue to work hard, and not get complacent. I need to find parts of my game every single day that I would like to excel at. I think I played decent, but I didn't play my best yet. I just have to watch film more often, and see how I perform. I need to come into the gym at night, and work on my skills. I want to make my weaknesses my strengths, and my strengths even stronger.

Men's Tennis Update: Guilherme Hadlich

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Senior Guilherme Hadlich, a four-year member of the Pepperdine men's tennis team and a standout in the classroom, is heading into his final season of college tennis. After that, it's on to graduation and starting a job. As he searches for that job, he wants to let employers know that student-athletes are capable of far more than what can be shown on a resume:


Guilherme  Hadlich

Over the past summer, I finally realized "real life" was about to start. For the first time, I had to think about getting a job. The problem is: I had no idea what to do and how to get there. Reality seemed to finally have kicked in, and I realized I spent the last 10 years of my life dedicating all my love, my time and my efforts to the sport of tennis. I realized I had been neglecting the next step in my life, and I hadn't prepared appropriately. I had been relying on all the people who told me that "I could be anything I wanted" and that "I was going to do great no matter what I choose to do." Looking back now, I just wish they all had at least told me what I would have had to do to "do great." For the first time in 10 years, I didn't know where to go next.


Once that yellow light turned on inside my head, I figured I should start moving. For a couple of weeks, visits to the Career Center, long phone calls with my parents and a tremendous amount of Google researches became a part of my routine. I learned that my first step was to write a resume. I thought, "Sweet, I'm a pretty cool guy and I did pretty well in tennis, I'm sure everyone will want to hire me." Hmm. No. With no previous work experience, all I was left with was my experience as a collegiate athlete at Pepperdine University -- which apparently was not enough for employers. I was getting so frustrated! It didn't seem fair to me that I had to limit the best three years of my life into four or five lines and a few action verbs. There is no way someone can read one-fourth of a page and fully understand what being a college athlete teaches you. In my opinion, it prepares you for life better than any other class, job or internship. Here's why:


1: You (really) learn how to work in teams and how to deal with different points of view. I've traveled a lot throughout my life because of tennis, so I was fortunate enough to meet people and make friends from everywhere in the world. I thought I was very good at understanding other people's perspectives and dealing with different cultures -- until I came to Pepperdine. When you have three Brazilians, one Argentinian, one Chilean, one Peruvian, one Canadian, three Americans, one half-Mexican and one Brit on the same team, let's just say you have some "differences of opinion." You either learn how to accept other perspectives or you won't last long. I had to learn that my values will not always work for everyone, and that people take different approaches to excellence.


2: Time management -- you learn the true meaning of a day having 24 hours. Wake up at 6 a.m., shower, make breakfast, drive to school. Find parking, tennis practice from 7-9, fitness from 9-10. Shower, convocation from 10-10:45, grab lunch to go, take shuttle to class. Class from 11-2, another tennis workout, stretch, meet with a group for a class. Get dinner with girlfriend, drive back home, study for test, read book for a quiz, go to bed. Repeat that the next day. 


3: You learn how to accept criticism and how to get better from it. When you spend 10 or 15 years playing an individual sport, you get used to doing things in your own way. You become certain that you know what is best for you. The problem is that in college, it is not about you. You get there and you have your "boss" -- a.k.a. your coach -- and captains telling you that you need to do things in a different way. At the beginning, there are weeks when you kind of just want to tell them to mind their own business and then go back to your room, curl into a ball and go to sleep. But as time goes by, you learn that they just want the best for you and that embracing their criticism will not only make you a better player, but a better person.


4: You learn that your actions have consequences and that they affect other people too. Last -- and most important -- you learn that you are not only representing yourself anymore. You represent your team, your coach, your athletic staff, other students on campus, faculty, alumni and ultimately your school. Therefore, you need to make decisions that are compatible with your new role. One bad decision could harm many other people, so you should always think twice. It is scary at first, but this change turns you into a more mature, self-controlled and disciplined person. It leaves you more prepared for the future, when you need to represent your family and your company.


There are other things I've learned in the past years, but I chose to highlight the ones that are more applicable to the workplace. Very often you see them as requirements for job positions. They are "soft skills," extremely difficult to teach in a classroom. While companies spend thousands of dollars trying to teach them to employees, student-athletes learn them every day while still working toward a degree. So, if you ever see yourself with a student-athlete resume in your hands, please don't overlook it. We go way beyond what is written there. And trust me when I say this: we are ready, and we know how to succeed.